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I’VE been preparing this play now for the last nine years. Started on an archaeological dig in Jordan in 2013, where I was writer in residence with GARP (Great Arab Revolt Project) co-directed by Neil Faulkner, the play speaks to our time.
Archaeology has its genres too, and this dig, Modern Conflict Archaeology, examined the united tribal Bedouin revolt against the Turks, allied with Germany in WWI, through the complex character of TE Lawrence, mythologised as Lawrence of Arabia.
I had a teenage fascination with Lawrence after seeing the David Lean movie in the 1960s, and Peter O’Toole’s lovely blue eyes soon gave way to reading the real Lawrence and realising what an astounding writer he was.
It was also the crash course in history and English literature that I needed, as my secondary modern school ushered girls towards cookery and needlework. I digress.
The play is set in the recent past as a WWI centenary exhibition of archaeological finds is set up by an archaeologist and museum technician.
The ghost of Lawrence appears, seen by the audience but not aways the characters on stage, and we learn of the ideals of the Arab revolt and subsequent treachery of the Western powers.
My Lawrence is a ghost who needs a “real” death from his guilt and fame, and to put the record straight. This includes deeply personal stuff, the physical and emotional violation he suffered while captured, echoes the violation of nations. And often the consequences.
He also has plenty to say about the continued imperialist meddling in the Middle East. Blood Gold and Oil makes those links.
If archaeology is grounding truth — the most grounded character in the play is the museum technician, a young working-class man of Middle Eastern ancestry.
There is much talent here — Douglas Clarke-Wood is mesmerising as Lawrence, playing him as a hybrid of movie star and damaged hero while Charlotte Moore as the archaeologist brilliantly hides her vulnerability with her learning, and Shiv Jalota as the technician is all contemporary edge and intelligence as an emotional and political conduit. Rae McKen direction “gets it” totally.
The reading is dedicated to archaeologist Neil Faulkner, who was also a leading light in the No Glory in War campaign and who died earlier this year.
This rehearsed reading is to prepare the play for next year, the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, for a full theatrical run.
Blood, Gold and Oil reading is at the Tin Tabernacle Kilburn, 12 Cambridge Avenue, London NW6 on May 28 2022 at 7.30pm. If you like to support it and/or come along go to janwoolf.com.
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